Watson, Thomas Edward

Watson, Thomas Edward,

1856–1922, American political leader, b. Columbia co., Ga. A successful lawyer, he practiced in Thomson, Ga., before serving (1882–83) in the state legislature and as a Farmers' Alliance Democrat in Congress (1891–93), where he worked for rural free delivery of mail. He was a spokesman for Populism, and in 1896 the Populists nominated him for Vice President; in 1904 he was their presidential nominee. He was elected to the Senate as a Democrat in 1920 and served until his death. In the course of his career he published Tom Watson's Magazine, Watson's Jeffersonian Magazine, the Weekly Jeffersonian, the Sentinel, and numerous books, including biographies of Thomas Jefferson (1903) and Andrew Jackson (1912). Watson launched virulent attacks on Roman Catholics, blacks, Jews, and Socialists, and was prosecuted for The Roman Catholic Hierarchy (1910), a diatribe against Catholics. Although indicted three times, he was never convicted.


See biography by C. V. Woodward (1938, repr. 1963).

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Watson, Thomas Edward (b. Edward Thomas)

(1856–1922) U.S. representative/senator, populist politician; born near Thomson, Ga. The grandson of a wealthy slaveowner, he saw his family fortunes destroyed during the Civil War. He became a successful criminal lawyer, and positioning himself as an agrarian reformer, he opposed the new capitalists and industrialists who were betraying the "Old South." He served in the U.S. House of Representatives (Pop., Ga.; 1891–93), where he won the first appropriation for free delivery of rural mail. He was nominated for vice-president by the Populist Party (1896) and for president by the People's Party (1904). He became a ferocious supporter of segregation and obsessively opposed to such minorities as Catholics, Jews, and Socialists. He violently opposed U.S. entrance into World War I and his magazines were banned from the U.S. mail. Elected on a platform of opposition to the League of Nations, he served only briefly in the U.S. Senate (Dem., Ga.; 1921–22). His career was celebrated in a ballad, the "Thomas E. Watson Song."
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.